Iraq’s displaced population has passed 3.3 million. Over 90% of those internal refugees reside in the center and north of the country. That places a huge burden on those provinces in the time of a financial crisis. The larger problem is that there is no process or timetable for when these people will be able to return to their homes, and more displacement is expected in the future as more cities are freed from the Islamic State.
90% of Iraq’s 3.3 million internally displaced are in the central and northern provinces. The International Organization of Migration counted 3,320,844 displaced in Iraq by February 2016. Baghdad had the most with 602,628, followed by Anbar’s 574,764, Dohuk’s 404,424, Kirkuk’s 377,208, Irbil’s 360,522, Ninewa’s 259,962, Salahaddin’s 180,594, Sulaymaniya’s 164,352, Diyala’s 104,082, Najaf’s 78,510, Karbala’s 68,106, Babil’s 60,318, Wasit’s 27,096, Qadisiyah’s 24,594, Basra’s 11,142, Dhi Qar’s 9,462, Maysan’s 6,852, and Muthanna’s 6,228. 93% of those were in the ten provinces of the center and north. Six of those governorates had more displaced than the eight southern provinces combined. After Mosul fell in June 2014 much was made of the south taking in people from places like Anbar, but the reality has been that refugees have been concentrated in those provinces that see the most violence conflating their difficulties.
Those battlefield areas have to deal with the destruction of their towns and cities, and continued dislocation. Anbar for example not only has the second most displaced in the nation, but after the liberation of Ramadi found that 60-80% of it was devastated with little money to rebuild it. In other areas the situation is made worse by the distrust that the Islamic State has left in its wake. There are many towns in Diyala, Ninewa, and Salahaddin where the security forces have not allowed people to return because they are considered IS sympathizers. That has left several ghost towns across the countryside. The Kurds and Hashd have also destroyed towns either for their support of the insurgency or to expand their political influence. Even in areas considered success stories like the Tikrit area where the vast majority of the residents have been allowed to go back, there are still around 120,000 people who were banned from returning. Those returns have also been made on an ad hoc basis usually involving whatever military force controls an area and local leaders and tribes. Those armed groups therefore rather than the central government are determining return patterns across the country. Finally, the fighting is continuing to displace in Iraq, which continues to grow despite others going back to their homes. People are returning to their areas such as in Tikrit, but there are far more leaving. The Ramadi offensive displaced several thousand that are mostly living in two camps in western Anbar now. That’s the reason why the total number of displaced continues to go up. In October 2015 there were 3.172 million, going up to 3.228 million in December, 3.290 million in January and then 3.320 million in February. These numbers will continue to rise as Iraqi forces continue to move north to liberate those places from the Islamic State. Mosul for example, could lead to hundreds of thousands of people being displaced. This is just one of many issues that are emerging in Iraq that will last long after the war with the militants is over.
Number of Displaced
October 2015 3,172,500
December 2015 3,228,874
January 2016 3,290,310
February 2016 3,320,844
Location Of Displaced By Province Feb 2016
Dhi Qar 9,462
Displaced In Central/Northern Iraq vs Southern Iraq
8 Provinces in South 231,990 displaced
10 in center and north 3,088,854 displaced
International Organization for Migration, “Displacement Tracking Matrix IDP Locations & Population Iraq IDP Crisis – January 2014 to 4 February 2016”